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unmanly and unpractical.” This, then, is why Cicero in
, practically all of his more ambitious philosophical works apologizes for such writings; in some cases, as in the Tusculans and the De Officiis, the prefatory passages of the individual books present in varying forms justification of his devotion to philosophy.
A striking passage is Tusculans 2.4: "Philosophy,” says Cicero, “is content with few critics: it deliberately, of its own accord, shuns the multitude, and so is viewed by the multitude with suspicion and hatred. Hence, if anyone is minded to criticize philosophy as a whole, he can be sure of popular applause. If any one is disposed to inveigh against the particular school which I follow by preference, he can secure vigorous reinforcements from the schools of the other philosophers.” In De Officiis 2.3-4 he cries, “Would that our commonwealth had lived on with form unchanged! in that case, I should be devoting myself to action rather than to writing, and, if I were writing at all, I should be putting down on paper not the themes with which now I am dealing, but rather my speeches.” In De Natura Deorum 1.7-9 he justifies at length his philosophical writing: it is for the good of the state, public conditions leave him unemployed otherwise, he can not endure to do nothing, his writing relieves the distress he feels by reason of the death of his daughter, his beloved Tulliola. But best of all, perhaps, is the long preface to the De Finibus,
"I was not unaware, my dear Brutus,” says Cicero, “that my attempt to set forth in Latin the philosophical speculations of the Greeks would expose me to criticism of divers sorts. For, to certain individuals, men, too, not at all untrained, there is nothing pleasing in what I am doing—that is, in philosophy. Others again find no fault with such study, if it is prosecuted without too much zeal, but feel that it is not right to devote as much interest and labor to this subject as I am giving it. Finally, I suspect there will be some who would have me take up other forms of literature, who regard this sort of writing, tho it calls for discrimination, as out of keeping with the rôle I have played in our life and with my position in the world.”
To these various classes of critics Cicero makes answer in the following sections. To those who would have him use his pen for subjects other than philosophy he replies in § 11; he bids them note that the themes of philosophy are second to none in interest and importance; "what can be better worth while,” he asks, "than to set forth the fines bonorum et malorum?” “Who,” he continues, “would think it out of keeping with the position which all men assign to me if I seek to discover what is best and truest in every activity of life?”
Many more passages may be cited, but for the present our citations are ample. It is clear that to the Roman of parts, ambitious for a career, literature could be but an avocation, not a vocation, the serious business of his life. It is worth while to remember that, down to the Augustan Age, Roman writers were in the main also doers, players of important rôles in Roman public affairs.
affairs. In the De Officiis 1.150-151 Cicero discusses the occupations fitting for a gentleman. Trading on a small scale he condemns out of hand; even transmarine commerce comes in for but scant endorsement. “If,” says Cicero, “such commerce is conducted on a large scale, so that it makes accessible to the Romans things to which they otherwise would be strangers, then it is not so bad; but if the transmarine trader, content with his gains, retires from business, then he is wholly commendable.” Agriculture, of course, is unqualifiedly praised. Of the things of the spirit, literature and the higher arts, not one word is said.
What, then, was a provincial like Cicero, a novus homo (i. e., a man none of whose family had held high office at Rome), to do? Could he hope for a career if he devoted his splendid talents to literature alone? The citations given above make full answer to this question. No, Cicero's one chance of winning recognition of the fine powers of which he must early have been conscious lay in following the beaten paths. Besides agriculture, only public life, with all that it implied—oratory, knowledge of the law and skill in its practise, soldiering, statecraft-was a wholly irreproachable occupation. To this, then, Cicero applied himself with all his powers. In such a life as this he was, in a sense, out of his element; we need not wonder, therefore, that he was not always a distinguished success therein. Yet his career will bear comparison with that of other scholars in politics.
We noted above that, in his De Oratore, Cicero, thru the mouth of Crassus, urged the view that no training could be too wide or too deep for him who would be the ideal orator, the ideal public man. It will be worth while to discover how Cicero applied in practise his theory. An exhaustive answer to this question will not be attempted. One passage only-Brutus § 304–317-will be employed.
"In 90 B. C.,” says Cicero, “I attained my majority. Only one court was in session then—that created by the Lex Varia." "This," he continues, "I attended constantly, tho the men that spoke there were not the leaders of the bar. The other important speakers of the day-aside from those I named above as absent from Rome-were holding office at that time, and I heard them almost daily as they addrest gatherings of the people. As I heard them, I was fired by overmastering enthusiasm; I wrote and read and declaimed daily. And yet I was not content with strictly oratorical training. I devoted myself to the study of our law under Quintus Scaevola; he never formally accepted any one as pupil, and yet, by answers he gave to those who consulted him, he taught all who were keen to hear him. Next year, by listening to P. Sulpicius, then tribune, as he addrest the people, I mastered thoroly all that was to be learned about this sort of speaking. At the same time, since Philo, head of the Academy, was in Rome, I surrendered myself wholly to the influence of that marvelous man, fired by a wondrous enthusiasm for philosophy, and devoted myself persistently to that subject, partly because the variety and the greatness of its themes filled me with the keenest delight, partly, too, because our courts seemed to have been suspended for ever.
“For the next three years there was no war, but thru the
death or the voluntary departure or the exile of various orators, Hortensius became the leader of the bar. Other orators of distinction spoke now and then. All this time, day and night alike, I devoted myself to every branch of liberal training. I was on most intimate terms with the Stoic Diodotus: in fact he lived for years at my house, and died there but recently. He trained me in other directions, but especially in logic. To this teacher, master of many varied accomplishments, I gave myself up so enthusiastically that no day was unmarked by efforts on my part to fit myself to be an orator. I practised declamation dailyoften in Latin, but oftener in Greek, partly because Greek styles of oratory, by admitting richer ornamentation than Latin, helped to superinduce a like mode of speech in Latin, partly because I could not get full benefit of teaching or correction by Greek instructors unless I knew Greek. Presently, after eight or nine years of such training, I began to try civil and criminal cases, not, as many did in those days, learning in the Forum, but, so far as I had been able to bring it about, entering the Forum fully trained. At the same time I studied under Molo, the rhetorician, who had come to Rome as an ambassador on behalf of the Rhodians. And so, in my first criminal case, the defense of Roscius, I won such distinction that much business came to me; all these cases I worked out with the utmost care.
"Since you wish to know all about my career, I will mention now certain matters which, mayhap, will strike you as not necessary or germane. In those days I was slender and weak, with a long, scraggy neck. In a word, I had just that physique which seems to many to portend an early death, if one works hard and tasks his lungs. And so my friends were sorely distrest about me, particularly since my habit was to plead a case thru from the beginning to the end without any easing of the tension, without variety, and with the utmost straining of my voice, and indeed of my whole body. And so tho, when my friends and the doctors urged me to give up pleading cases, I felt I ought to face every danger rather than fall short of realizing my hopes of distinction, still, when it struck me that, by easing the tension and learning to control my voice and by changing my style of delivery, I might at once escape the physical risks I was facing and gain a better regulated style, I went to Asia, to change my style of speaking. On arriving at Athens I spent six months with Antiochus, a distinguished and wise adherent of the Old Academy, and my devotion to philosophy, which had never been interrupted from my boyish days, I renewed in richer measure under the guidance of an author and teacher of the first rank. At the same time at Athens I practised under the guidance of Demetrius Syrus, who long had been a successful teacher of rhetoric. Afterward I traversed all Asia Minor and practised there with the leading rhetoricians. Not content with them I went to Rhodes, and worked again under Molo, a man who not only was a distinguished pleader and writer, but also extremely skilful in criticising the weaknesses of others, and in teaching and training others. He did all that was possible to repress my youthful exuberance and to confine the stream of my oratory within its banks. And so, after two years, I came back to Rome, not only a better-trained man, but almost a new man, for I no longer overstrained my voice, my oratorical style had been toned down, my lungs had gained strength, and I had won a fair physique.”
Such was the training of the man who became Rome's greatest orator, who first gave in Latin an adequate presentation of rhetoric, in its theoretical as in its practical aspects, who first showed the possibilities of Latin as a vehicle for prose, and who, more than any other man, more even than the great philosopher-poet Lucretius, gave to Latin a philosophical literature. Well might he, in his De Natura Deorum 1.6, resent the charge that, even if philosophy were a worthy theme for his pen, he had no competent knowledge within this field; well might Dr. Reid resent the strictures made in modern times on Cicero's philosophical writings as the product of a dabbler in philosophy, as the outcome of philosophical books but half